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The Politics of Love
Queer Heterosexuality in Nineteenth-Century French Literature
Maxime Foerster

Publication date: April 3, 2018


Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies

New Hampshire
2018 • 240 pp. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism - French / Literary Criticism - 19th Century

$45.00 Paperback, 978-1-5126-0170-1
$95.00 Hardcover, 978-1-5126-0169-5

$44.99 Ebook, 978-1-5126-0171-8

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Hardcover is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)



Convincingly shows how heterosexual couples as depicted in nineteenth-century French literature challenged traditional norms of both gender and sexuality

What would love be if heterosexual couples were no longer assigned gender and sexual norms?

Maxime Foerster answers this question by examining the “heterosexual trouble” between men and women in nineteenth-century French Romantic and Decadent literature. He discloses a recurring pattern in canonical works by authors ranging from George Sand, Germaine de Staël, Benjamin Constant, Alfred de Musset, and Théophile Gautier to Charles Baudelaire and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly: heterosexuality did not seem to work. In response to nineteenth-century sexual and gender norms meant to enforce masculine domination, these authors transcended the standard battle of the sexes to investigate the struggle of men and women alike against the patriarchal ideology of the heterosexual couple. According to Foerster, Romantic fiction dedicated itself to the reinvention of love, whereas Decadence promoted sexual and gender deviance—both genres working in opposition to profound heteronormative pressures.

The heterosexual trouble Foerster uncovers not only points up the disorder and discord affecting fictional heterosexual couples, male and female dandies, and doctors and their allegedly mad female patients, but also shows how literature has played a crucial role in the fashioning of alternative identities—including queer heterosexuality—and in encouraging resistance to rhetorics of normalcy. He concludes this far-reaching study of heterosexual trouble in the nineteenth century by looking ahead to its legacy in the twentieth, in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.



MAXIME FOERSTER is an assistant professor of French in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.



Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:00:59 -0500